Downtown Plano has served as a community hub for small business owners, City Hall workers and local patrons since the first rail stop opened in 1908.
However, the addition of shopping centers in West Plano and pandemic shutdowns have redirected foot traffic elsewhere.
To try and remedy this, the City of Plano created the position of downtown manager for Michelle Hawkins, who served as the city’s arts and events manager for nearly 20 years. Hawkins’ duties entail connecting with the downtown community, creating events downtown and working with local entities to help drive business.
“Plano has been very good to me. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed all of it,” Hawkins says. “I keep on saying that if I have nothing to contribute or if I’m not having fun then I’ll leave, but it’s been a while, and I’m still having fun.”
One new business she has worked with, Plano Shopping Co-Op, is a collaborative retail space featuring a bookstore, curated vintage store and pop-up opportunities.
Hawkins also hopes to educate residents about downtown Plano’s history.
“Downtown Plano really holds the history of Plano, and I think there are a lot of Planoites who don’t even know it exists,” Hawkins says.
Downtown has many nods to its history, including the Plano Interurban Railway Museum. The museum is located at the site of the old train station on East 15th Street, where a railcar can be toured as guides talk about what it would have been like to ride the train.
“The one thing that downtown has is the history. No other place can have that,” Hawkins says.
On June 3, Plano’s 150th Birthday Bash will bring food, drinks, entertainment and interactions with Plano’s history to Haggard Park. Plano ISD students will also have birthday cards to the city on display. An after-party at McCall Plaza will round out the evening.
Hawkins has scheduled many events in the coming months, including the 19th Annual Plano AsiaFest, which celebrates Asian Heritage (22% of Plano residents identify as Asian) with a fashion show, martial arts demonstrations, cultural booths, performance art and food.
Aside from big festivals, downtown hosts regular events every week like sip and shops and plays at The Courtyard Theatre. Plano Community Band will host five free concerts in Haggard Park through June and July.
“Western shops like Legacy are very polished, and this is just kind of more relaxed, more neighborhood. Your neighborhood,” Hawkins says. “It’s got a little funky vibe. It’s more casual.
Hawkins is advocating for a stronger, more unified downtown area.
“Unifying the district with a brand that the downtown community creates will just further enhance its vibe, and I think visitors will be able to feel that when they’re here,” Hawkins says.
To find more information and keep up with the buzz downtown, follow @planoarts and @visitdowntownplano on Facebook and Instagram.